“Ticking time bomb” of asbestos in UK hospitals
Recent headlines suggest hospitals in the capital and across the rest of the country could be a danger to the public as asbestos is left in place from building work carried out decades ago.
Milton Keynes hospital has been forced to pay almost £150,000 after an unnamed person came into contact with asbestos on its premises. The case involved asbestos found in the hospital’s insulation boards but bosses claim these were sealed and posed no threat to the public. The case reflects the opposing viewpoints of many experts concerning the dangers of asbestos in hospitals.
According to the BBC, Jerry Swain, acting national instructor for Unite’s construction centre, and lawyer Isobel Lovett, who has dealt with asbestos cases for 17 years, described the number of people who are developing mesothelioma (cancer caused as a direct result of contact with asbestos) as a “ticking time bomb”. The NHS disputes this, stating that many buildings across the nation contain asbestos but that there is no danger unless the substance is disturbed.
BBC London looked into the presence of asbestos in the capital and found the substance present in 94% of hospitals. Mr Swain stated:
“The only safe asbestos is asbestos that’s been removed. If we’re going to leave asbestos in places, we have to be aware that we are taking a conscious decision and that people will die.”
But a spokesperson for NHS Improvement, part of the Department of Health, responded:
“In common with buildings across the country, many parts of the NHS estate date from an era when asbestos was widely used. Asbestos is considered safe if it is undisturbed. Safety is and always will be our top priority. We continue to work with trusts to ensure that their estate remains a safe environment for all patients and staff.”
Whilst the NHS also claimed that white asbestos, often used in hospitals, was not a lethal substance, Ms Lovett strongly disagreed:
“White asbestos in hospitals is still a danger – there’s no safe form of asbestos. There’s no safe level of dust to which you can be exposed. All asbestos dust, once breathed in, presents a hazard.”
SYMPTOMS OF MESOTHELIOMA
Symptoms of mesothelioma are often hard to identify in its early stages due to the damage not becoming apparent until years or decades later. Below we have identified some of the main symptoms that can be found relating to a mesothelioma claim.
- Pleural Effusion: This is where a build-up of fluid makes it difficult for the lung to expand. This can lead to impaired breathing and chest pain, which can subsequently result in diminished breathing sounds and movement of the chest on the affected side.
- Dyspnoea: Also known as ‘air hunger’, this can be particularly alarming and stressful for sufferers. Pleural effusion is the most common cause of this problem, as breathing can become difficult and laboured, which can result in great discomfort and anxiety.
- Dry cough or wheezing: A persistent, hoarse cough accompanied by wheezing is a common side effect of pleural effusion and having an accumulation of fluid around the lungs. The cough will typically not be accompanied by any phlegm and seem unproductive to the sufferer.
- Fatigue and tiredness: The restricted lung function and laboured breathing can leave the sufferer fatigued and tired following any physical exertion.
- Abdominal pain: This is the first symptom that people with peritoneal mesothelioma often suffer from. Enlargement and tenderness of the abdomen can then follow, with fluid build-up occurring later on in the illness. This can cause loss of appetite and subsequently lead to weight loss.
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms or have been exposed to asbestos in the past we would advise you visit your local GP and seek medical advice. They will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and offer you treatments for the condition.
For more information on Mesothelioma symptoms please click here.